Author Archives: mpdenton

Champs…Yet Again…

…surprised?  I am a little bit…actually, a lot.

Sure, the New England Patriots have a ton of talent.  But, on paper, was it on par with teams like the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints?  Not so sure about that.  Not to mention having to play the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.  With that atrocious (for them) road record this season.

But that’s why they play the games, as they say.

Plus…the Pats have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  So there is that…

Now, Brady didn’t exactly play his best last Sunday.  But did he need to?  I guess not the way the defense played.  And with how putrid Jared Goff looked.  Then again, it would have been nice to see some points on the board.  And not waiting until about seven minutes left to score a touchdown.  But that’s what happens when you don’t give Brady many weapons.

I’m not sure what happened to Chris Hogan this year.  Hogan had been a fairly reliable wide receiver during his first two years with the team.  But completely disappeared for most of this year.  He supposedly fell out of the “Brady Circle of Trust”.  But seemingly came back in during the playoffs.  Zero for six in the Super Bowl for catches and targets, however.  Disgusting.  And Phillip Dorsett played a good amount of snaps and no one even saw him on the field I don’t think.  James White had one catch on four targets.  Surprisingly not part of the game plan in that respect, but apparently was chipping the Rams’ D-linemen often.  So we will give him a pass.

Other than that?  Just Gronk and Jules.  But I guess that is all you need…Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.  How could the Rams let those two catch ANYTHING?  Have to let those other stiffs beat you, no?

So the Pats won the game…with running and defense?  What, was this 2001 all over again?

Hard to believe.

When you look back, the running game wasn’t exactly stout the entire game.  154 yards is a nice total.  But it was also misleading.

What wasn’t misleading was the fact that the Patriots ran the ball down the Rams throat when it counted most.  Their last drive.  After Stephon Gilmore picked off a Goff floater inside their own five yard line with about 4 minutes left and the Pats up 10-3, the running game then took it to another level.  They marched down the field running the ball led by a pair of 26 yard runs, one each by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead.  (Though Michel couldn’t get two yards on a third and about a yard and a half, but we won’t nitpick too much).

That drive obviously sealed the game.  When is the last time that anyone could say the running game wrapped up a game for the New England Patriots?  The Corey Dillon days?  Usually, Brady would be throwing screens to guys like Edelman and White to get 3-5 yards and first downs because they couldn’t run the ball.  Seemed weird.  But it worked.

The Patriot defense? Sure, they played pretty well.  But was the performance overrated?  Perhaps.  Goff was absolutely abysmal, in all aspects.  And Todd Gurley can tell anyone he wants that he wasn’t hurt.  But that can’t possibly be the case.  He HAD to have been hurt.  10 carries in the Super Bowl?  A handful in the NFC Championship Game?  It’s noble for Gurley to deny his knee was a problem.  But we all know it was.

Not having a healthy Gurley was a huge blow for the Rams…and don’t give me “well, C.J. Anderson was lighting it up after they signed him…”.  Anderson isn’t Gurley.  I think we can all agree on that.  A player isn’t on three different teams in one season for no reason.

I’m sure this factor has been talked about ad nauseam this past week.  However, I have not been able to listen to a lot of the chatter, unfortunately.  But Sean McVay got taken to the woodshed in the game.  Simple as that.

According to people who watch film, and all the other information available that has been analyzed and re-analyzed, it appears that the Patriots had two different calls for the defense for every play…or a majority of them anyway.  One to show the Rams a look before the 15 second mark on the play clock and another for after the 15 second mark.

Why the 15 second mark?  Well, you have all heard about this too.  McVay can talk in Goff’s ear until then.  After that, the line of communication is shut off.  So McVay helped Goff before the time limit, then Goff was helpless thereafter.  Because the Patriots changed things up and Goff had no idea what to do.

My main question is:  How come no other team has figured that out?  I guess teams “do what they do” and don’t strategize to that degree.  Kind of a mistake I would say.  But then again, when you have the same coach and the same systems in place for almost two decades, I guess that makes it easier for a team to do.

My second question would be:  Wow, is Goff really that inept that he can’t figure things out on his own?  Makes you wonder if he is really a franchise type guy.  Not our problem I guess.  But worth noting nonetheless.

So there is your story:  Coaching, defense, running game…and maybe a dash of special teams.  Stephen Gostkowski did have 7 of the teams’ 13 points after all.  Yes, a little shaky.  But the job was done nonetheless.

For all those people who thought the game was boring?  I understand.  If you are not a fan of the teams, I imagine that more offense would have been what you wanted.  If you were like most of the country, wanting the Patriots to lose, well, having the Rams score only three points couldn’t have been that exciting for you.  And…we know that offense is now the name of the game.  See the 54-51 game between the Rams and Chiefs earlier this year.

The fact is, the Patriots should have scored more points.  How many times were they into Rams territory with nothing to show for it?  Plenty.  But defense is still a part of the game.  And fans should have been paying attention to that.  Wasn’t a boring game for the Blowhard.  Then again, being out in a pro-Patriot crowd while enjoying some (many?) adult beverages will often help that, I will allow.

In any event, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions for the 6th time.  Deal with it.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again:  People, for some reason, fail to remember the years before Robert Kraft owned the team.  Many failures, few successes, lots of laughable moments.  Drug scandals, head coaches in the playoffs creating distractions by taking other jobs before the season is over (Chuck Fairbanks AND Bill Parcells), sexual harassment scandals (Lisa Olson), a bogus roughing the passer call (Sugar Bear Hamilton), the Rod Rust (1-15) era, the Sullivan’s and their decrepit stadium, Matt Millen punching one of the Sullivan’s, James Orthwein, Victor Kiam, etc., etc., etc.  The list can go on.

Patriot fans should make no apologies for the past two decades of dominance.  Because we all know the other side of it…and how fast things can change going forward.  Who knows what this organization will look like once Brady and Belichick retire?  I believe that as long as the team remains under the Kraft’s ownership (which should be a significant amount of time, as undoubtedly Jonathan Kraft will take over for his father Robert at some point), I expect no 2-14 or 1-15 seasons.  But that does not mean they will continue winning Super Bowls.

Let’s enjoy this run, ignore the haters…and go for the seventh next year!

Which leads me to what’s next for this Patriot’s team.  Welp, seemingly a lot of roster decisions.  A whole slew of free agents of varying importance.  And we will cover that in due time…

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  147-120 (55.1%…1.5% better than last year!)

Season (straight up):  171-96 (64.0%…3.4% worse than last year…yikes!)

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Super Bowl…

…the Big Day is finally within sight.  The two weeks between the Championship games and the Super Bowl seem like an eternity, no?  Well, I suppose it is only that way for the fans of the participant teams anyway.  Sorry to you also-rans!

So we all know what happened by now in the Conference Championship games.  The Los Angeles Rams stole one from the New Orleans Saints…or did they?  And the New England Patriots held off the Kansas City Chiefs.

Back to the Rams.  Everyone has been talking like they shouldn’t have beaten the Saints.  All because of that non-penalty call on Nickell Robey-Coleman.  Sure, it was a penalty.  Sure, it should have been called.  And sure, the Saints would have been almost able to run out the clock after that.

BUT, everyone seems to forget that New Orleans had a 13-0 lead early on.  PLUS, it should have been 17-0, or even 21-0.  Are the Rams coming back from that deficit if it occurred?  Not so sure about that.

Ok, the Saints couldn’t get to 21-0, so I guess the point is not applicable.  But they had several chances to put the game away early on.  And didn’t capitalize.  So although they did get kind of screwed late, let’s not forget the rest of the game.

As for the Pats, well, that one was an Instant Classic.  Their defense dominated early, then Patrick Mahomes started lighting it up all over the place.  The Patriots absolutely got a few breaks, but hey, that’s what has happened to them during this Bill Belichick/Tom Brady run.  So I think everyone needs to accept it already!

All kidding aside, what a game.  But that has been analyzed left and right, top to bottom, so no need to dig down deep on it two weeks later.

Let’s focus on the present…and the immediate future…

New England (-2.5) “at” Los Angeles Rams

Let’s be honest right off the bat.  We are not going to sit here and pretend that we watched a ton of Ram football this season.  Certainly not any film, breaking down the line play and such.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t give some opinions, bogus or not!

We can say at 13-3, it was a helluva a season, sneaking out from the NFC Championship or not.  They scored the second most points in the NFL.  Explosive.  And since they will be playing indoors, that’s something that needs to be noted.

Sean McVay gets all the credit.  Boy genius and all that.  And he’s good.  But I have to tell you that having Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator on his side kind of scares the bejesus out of me.  I heard on the radio this week that the Pats have chewed up Phillips’ defenses on occasion.  Unfortunately, I only seem to remember Phillips being able to shut Tom Brady and the New England offense down.  Not sure why that is…guess it’s the recurring nightmares…ok, that was a little strong.

But Phillips and his crew do scare me a bit for sure.  Aqib Talib is pure gold when he speaks.  But he’s pretty f’n good when he’s on the field too.  Aaron Donald?  No explanation necessary.  Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters…there are some names out there.  And if they play to their capabilities, it feels like they can dominate.  Maybe that’s just me looking at names.  But still…

Robey-Coleman?  Nah.  Brady will look to torch him of course because of his comments earlier in the week…where he called Brady old and all.  And maybe Tom will.  But if NRC is covering Chris Hogan or Cordarrelle Patterson or Phillip Dorsett, Brady may not be able to take advantage of even that matchup.

Everyone always points to the fact that Bill Belichick has two weeks to prepare for this game and should dominate because he is so much smarter than everyone else.  But doesn’t the other team have the two weeks to prepare as well?  And what happened last year against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Bill had two weeks to prepare…and somehow thought that Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards were better options to have on the field than Malcolm Butler?  Yup…

What if Phillips comes up with a great game plan?  Maybe put Talib on Rob Gronkowski?  Like the Pats did when he was here, putting Aqib on Jimmy Graham.  Yeah, Gronk may not be Gronk this year.  But he is still dangerous.  Wade can come up with something himself in these two weeks.

But here is the twist…I think the Patriots try to run the ball down the Rams’ throat.  Just like against the Chiefs.  Time of possession.  Keep the explosive offense off the field.  Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, a little bit of James White and some old fashioned James Develin blocking.  Then unleash Brady when appropriate…although hopefully without that brutal interception at the goal line against KC.

Will it work?  No idea.  But expect a fair amount of those screens to White and Julian Edelman as well.  With Aaron Donald poised to wreak some havoc, Brady may not have a ton of time to throw.  Then again, the Pats line has played well.  Maybe Dante Scarnecchia comes up with another gem.

Although the Pats did not do this nearly as much as I would like this year, I have a feeling we see the hurry-up offense a little more on Sunday.  Yes, I did just say I feel like they will try to win time of possession by running the ball, so why the hell would I say that they will hurry up?  Welp, doesn’t mean that they won’t run the ball out of the hurry up.  I’m just thinking they will try to tire that D-Line out even more…by not allowing them to substitute.  Work quickly, but still eat clock.  I don’t know, just a gut feeling there.

The Rams may try to run the ball too.  Not exactly a Patriot strength.  But is Todd Gurley anywhere near 100%?  Doesn’t seem it.  C.J. Anderson has been nice.  But he’s not Gurley.  Especially catching balls out of the backfield.  Jared Goff will most assuredly go downfield more, but if Gurley is good to go, watch for plenty of short passes to him with the likes of Elandon Roberts trying to cover him.  Not ideal.

That being said, my guess is the Pats will let the Rams do what they please with the running backs and prevent guys like Brandin Cooks from getting by them deep.

One more thing to consider:  History.

This game will be played 17 years to the day after the Pats won their first Super Bowl against the high flying…St. Louis Rams.  Brady can win his sixth Super Bowl.  Would be a nice bookend.  The Pats can tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most wins in Super Bowls.  Etc.  Food for thought.

Experience?  Yeah, it can matter.  Talent usually wins out in the end, however.  Of course, lack of experience in this setting can make even the best dudes make the wrong decisions in crunch time.  Something to think about as well.

The Patriots are playing their “no one respects us” card again.  Kind of silly, but whatever works.  Hopefully, they are using last year’s Big Game as motivation too.  They should be.  Throw in the fact that the team could look a little different next year.  I know, every team looks a little different each year.  And Brady already said there is zero chance he is retiring.  But Gronk might.  And Devin McCourty threw that word around this week…though I am not sure that is likely.  But Dev and guys like Dont’a Hightower do have high cap numbers next year and aren’t the same players.  Could they be cut?  Trent Brown and Trey Flowers could cash in elsewhere.  There could be more turnover than usual next year.  And a 42-year-old quarterback that showed some decline this year, whether he wants to admit it or not (yes, I said it).

Some of us have been saying it for a while, but it is appropriate.  This really could be the New England Patriots’ “last hurrah”.

I expect they will take advantage of it.

New England 34, Los Angeles Rams 30.

Week (against the spread):  1-1

Week (straight up):  1-1

Season (against the spread):  146-120

Season (straight up):  170-96

Cooperstown 2019…

The Baseball Hall of Fame is due to announce their latest inductees on Tuesday so the Blowhard will lay his “vote” out here as well.

So it probably has been plenty clear that I am a “Small Hall” guy if you’ve ever read my Cooperstown posts.  Jack Morris and Alan Trammell recently got in through the veteran’s vote.  This year?  Harold Baines and Lee Smith.  WHAT???!!!

I have to admit, this kind of disgusts me.  None of those guys are Hall of Famers.  None.  Yet there will be more who will get in on Tuesday, and beyond, that have no business being in Cooperstown.

So now that these 4 guys are in, who is next?  Well, all the steroid guys should be in anyway.  The elite ones for sure.  Rafael Palmeiro with his 500 plus dingers and 3,000 plus hits?  I’d be on the fence about him, but he has to be automatic now.  Mark McGwire?  A third of his hits were homers, and that is nice.  But no Hall of Famer.  But he has to go in now also.  Dale Murphy, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Don Mattingly, Dwight Evans, Jamie Moyer?  WHERE DOES IT STOP?!

Done venting.  But hopefully, you can see how ridiculous this is becoming.

This year, there are 35 names on the official ballot.  Per usual, I added one write-in of my own.

Elected:

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez-We say it every year, these guys are complete arseclowns.  Huge steroid guys.  But also indisputably Hall of Famers.  It may finally be here for the first two.  But they all should be in now.

Mariano Rivera-I know, saves can be kind of a bogus stat.  But when you are pretty much THE BEST at that position over the course of your career and likely in history, you kind of have to recognize that.

Pete Rose-Here’s my write-in again.  He’s showing up more and more now on telecasts and the like.  Colossal dirtbag of course.  But definitely a Hall of Famer.  He WILL get in someday.  But not until he’s been long dead, I can promise you that.

Fantastic careers, but falling a smidge short:

Roy Halladay-8 time All-Star, 7 time Top 5 in the Cy Young voting.  Certainly a stretch of dominance in the middle of his career.  My guess is he gets in.  But I’m not there on him.

Pretty damn good careers, but we can’t induct everyone:

Curt Schilling-Think he will get in eventually too.  But again, not for me.  Not because of his mouth or politics or tweets or any of that stuff.  But because there were too many career ups and downs for my liking.  Despite any postseason heroics.  By the way, there are 16 pitchers in Major League Baseball history that have struck out 3,000 or more batters.  14 are in the Hall.  Clemens is 15.  Schill is 16.  When C.C. Sabathia strikes out 14 guys next season he will be 17.  You can make a case for all 16 currently.  C.C.?  Ugh.  This may change down the road anyway because guys strike out all the time now.  But up until now, it may kind of show that Schill actually belongs in the Hall?

Edgar Martinez-As a DH only for the bulk of his career, the numbers have to be waaaaaay more extravagant for me to put him in.  Like say…David Ortiz-like.  And they aren’t quite that.  But Cooperstown will welcome him in real life on Tuesday.

Mike Mussina-Good pitcher for a long time.  He won 20 games in his final year.  Funny thing is, if he stuck around for maybe 3 more years and won 30 more games, the 300 wins and 3,000 K’s (ended 187 shy) would have put him in automatically.  He may well get in Tuesday as well.

Fred McGriff-The Crime Dog was a solid player pretty much from beginning to end.  But that does not make you a Hall of Famer.

Jeff Kent-His position of 2B helps him here.  But he can probably thank the SF years of batting cleanup behind Bonds for keeping him on the ballot every year.

Larry Walker-Colorado effect.  I don’t know why he keeps getting the support.  Why no love for Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette or Andres Galarraga?  His numbers weren’t even as good as Baines’.

Gary Sheffield-I never really didn’t think too hard with him.  There’s usually a reason a great talent bounces around and plays on 8 teams.  Didn’t we all see it coming when he came up with Milwaukee as a youngster, they asked him to play third base, he didn’t like it, and as a result fired balls into the stands on purpose?

Billy Wagner-I liked Wagner better than Trevor Hoffman.  But Hoffs pitched in almost 200 more games.  If Wags stuck around for a couple more years, would he have gotten Hoffman-type support?  It’s possible.  But he’s still not in the Hall.

Sammy Sosa-Same story, different year.  609 homers are nice.  But almost half of them (292) came in a 5 year stretch…of an 18-year career.  His .878 career OPS doesn’t even compare to Jim Thome or Vladimir Guerrero, who got in last year.  Nor do many of his other career totals.

Scott Rolen-Numbers were worse than I remembered and didn’t do a whole ton after age-31.  Rookie of the Year award, 7 All-Star Games and 8 Gold Gloves I suppose gets one some love.  The .158 average in 16 games (over 5 series) in the NLDS can’t possibly help though.  The rest of the postseason numbers don’t stick out either.  Nice player, no Hall though.

Andruw Jones-If Andruw retired after his age-29 season in 2006, he may have had a decent shot at the Hall.  As funny as that sounds.  Based on both his offensive and defensive prowess.  He didn’t, however, and sunk his chances with a pretty disastrous final 6 seasons.  “Disastrous” may actually be being kind.  Jones hit 92 homers in those 6 years, but did little else, but apparently stop doing ‘roids and get fat.  And I think stop caring, but I don’t know if I can prove that.  Anyway, no.

Omar Vizquel-Omar is going to get some serious love because “well, Ozzie Smith is in and Luis Aparicio is in and Vizquel’s numbers are comparable/better…”  And sure, he deserves consideration.  Absolutely a defensive whiz at shortstop, who got better offensively as his career progressed.  He may even get in someday, perhaps by the same group who let in all these other non-Hall of Famers.  But I’m not buying in.  Here is another one though, that if he got to 3,000 hits, he may be in automatically.  He fell 123 short.  That he got even that close is due in part to the fact that he played until he was 75 years old.  Ok, slight exaggeration there, but Omar is just another decent player that is not a Hall of Famer.

Todd Helton-Colorado.  No.

Andy Pettitte-3.85 ERA and 1.351 WHIP for his career.  256 wins, but always seemingly on good teams.  We can call him Jack Morris if you want.  You know what that means…

Are these guys seriously on a Hall of Fame ballot?:

Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Miguel Tejada, Placido Polanco, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lowe, Freddy Garcia, Vernon Wells, Ted Lilly, Travis Hafner, Michael Young, Jason Bay, Jon Garland, Darren Oliver, Juan Pierre, Rick Ankiel-I’m out of words…

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